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The Restoration of a 1956 Willis Racing Runabout

By Lewis White

A few years ago I bought an old boat
built with Mahogany.
I wondered if she would ever float
again in the brine sea.

Built by the hands of a craftsman.
Way down in Dallas City.
Fifty six years has passed since when.
At that time looking trim and pretty.

I thought that I would do my best
to bring her back to life
and show her off to all the rest
who said she was trouble and strife

But when I saw her shapely lines
I know she had to be
Restored to new and looking as fine
a boat for all to see

I brought her home and had her flipped
by some friends in the W.B.A.
And at that time I was not concerned
as the planking was good where it lay

Now came the time for the work to start
The peeling paint to remove
And the sanding of this became an art
As the bottom planks did improve

The planks were sanded down to show
The bare Mahogany wood

and upon which the paint would flow
From the brush that made it look good

So now its time for the sides of the boat
To have my full attention
Eight coats of varnish I did flow
This was my full intention

After many hours the outside of the hull
was considered to be finished
But looking more closely it appeared to dull
So I buffed her again and then polished

At last the hull looked like new
With all eight coats of varnish
Which drew the attention of quite a few
Who thought it to be a great finish

The willing guys of the W.B.A.
Flipped her back to the upright position
In order for me to start to work
on the deck that’s in poor condition

While stripping the deck of old varnish
I noticed then that the seams
were not as good as I had wished
So I thought of other means

To make the deck look like new.
The only way I know how
Was to cut new seams into the deck
from the dashboard to the bow

The seams were inlaid with white Basswood
In contrast to the dark Mahogany

And now it looks perfectly good
For the eyes of all to see

The next thing on my list to do
Was to refurbish the fore and aft seats
And to make them look just like new
This shouldn’t take long to complete

The cushions were faded and torn in two
And just had to be replaced.
I called Chuck Pool who knew someone who
Could make them in much haste

He agreed to take on this project
To replace the ones that were torn
And when completed they were perfect
And matched for fit and form

And now it was time for the hardware
to be fitted to the deck
She looked so good I do declare
No longer did she look like a wreck

My Willis boat was chosen to be
“The Flagship” at White Rock Lake
For you see it was their Centennial
And quite a show she did make

It goes to show what can be done
With old boats thought to have had their day
So why not come and take a trial run
With the guys in the W.B.A


Author: Lew White August 1, 2013
Member of the Wooden Boat Association